(With great lament) Oh I seek the day when I don’t think about CANCER.
Seriously, I think about cancer all the time. Sometimes I’m like, “Yay! I’m on the other side of treatment, I just have to LIVE now!” And the other times I’m like, “What is that twinge? Is it toe cancer? Oh God, why have I been struck with elbow cancer? Earlobe cancer? No!” I am addicted to online symptom checkers. (By the way, online symptom checkers suck, because your mind can make you think you really do have all those problems.)
I saw my medical oncologist, Dr. D today, for some routine bloodwork and to discuss my current nemesis, Tamoxifen.
In case you don’t know, Tamoxifen is a common drug taken after women have been diagnosed with breast cancer. In hormone receptor positive BC like mine, the Tamoxifen’s goal is to suppress hormone production, thus giving the cancer cells nothing to use for food. You take the Tamoxifen for five years. Since I am an avid researcher and can’t stand not having information, I have worn out every book, site, and discussion board regarding this drug. Unfortunately, many women have suffered icky side effects due to this drug, so at some point you are battling quality of life issues. Sure, the Tamoxifen may give you more time on earth, but if that time is spent in misery, what have you really accomplished? (Let me be fair though, some women have no problem with this drug at all.)
I let the prescription for Tamoxifen languish on my nightstand for quite some time. I just wasn’t ready to start one more thing. I finished radiation in May and finally started feeling better by mid-June. At some point, I decided that I was ready to start the drug. It hasn’t been the best time. I have been suffering from great fatigue, my joints are achy, I have lots of bruises, nausea hits, and I’m not myself. I slept until 11:00 the other day and then took a nap at 4:00! I’ve been on the Tamoxifen for almost 30 days, and it’s pretty much been a battle. This is where that quality of life thing comes in–I feel that quality might overpower quantity here.
So anyway, Dr. D showed me that chemotherapy probably did my ovaries in. I practically have negative estrogen in my body, thus all the sweat-through-your-clothes hot flashes I’ve been having since January. The Tamoxifen only made the hot flashes worse, I think I might be radiating heat. He also pointed out that my white blood count is a little low. I told him about the fatigue, the bruising, and the fact that I am not feeling better. We decided that going off the Tamoxifen for a month and then rechecking all the bloodwork might be a good idea. He spent a long time going over things. I feel lucky to have such a smart doctor.
After that appointment, I headed over to Dr. P, the doctor that I initially saw last fall…the doctor that very confidently told me to go get a diagnostic mammogram…there was probably nothing wrong, let’s just get it checked out. He’s a good guy, and I’m glad he was so good with me. He even called me on the phone after my diagnosis and offered great support. So today I was there for an annual “downstairs” check-up, which is something I haven’t done sine I had my uterus and cervix removed in 2009. I figured that I really didn’t need annual exams. But since I need to rule out everything, and there has been talk of getting my ovaries removed to lessen hormone production, I realized that I needed to go see an expert. Dr. P began the examination (yuck) and frowned a little when he prodded my left ovary. Then he asked the nurse to get the little sonogram machine. He checked the right ovary, showed me a little cyst growing there, but said that it wasn’t concerning since it was smooth. Then he moved over to the left and had all kinds of trouble trying to get a good shot of the ovary. This might be TMI, but he really put a lot of effort into moving that stupid wand all around my insides. I don’t think you can get all the way to the heart from a vagina, but my goodness it sure seemed like he tried!
Defeated, he told me that he couldn’t tell if he was looking at a full intestine or if my ovary was all weird. I have to go back, after using an ENEMA, to get a better picture of what’s going on in there. (Now you know that I don’t really like to cuss in my writing, but this situation just calls for it. Avert your gaze if necessary.) So what this essentially comes down to is that I have an ovary problem or I’m full of shit. God help me if it’s both.
Dr. P did give me some wise advice though. I told him that I feel stupid for thinking that I might be diagnosed with more cancer at any moment. He counseled that those feelings are normal and that they would fade with time. His words: “I wish I could tell you a specific time where this will stop constantly haunting you. I wish I could say that in exactly 16 months and 23 days, this will be easier. I don’t know when you’ll stop thinking about it, but I know it will happen.” Smart man, right?
So I am now faced with going off the Tamoxifen and going back to Dr. D in a month to get new labwork done. I am also faced with cleaning out my insides and getting my possible weird ovary examined. Fun times. I am also faced with being smart and limiting my Internet searches to non-cancer symptom type queries.
Maybe I should re-visit my Pinterest addiction?